[JURIST] Egyptian officials on Sunday stated that Egypt may pursue legal action against journalists who report information on terrorist attacks that contradicts official government statements. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi [BBC profile] is expected to approve a draft law [AFP report] already passed by the cabinet which would punish such reporting with a minimum 2-year prison sentence. It could also allow for house arrest or deportation. Government officials say this new law comes in response to exaggerated media reports on troop casualties which affect the morale of the country, claiming they are trying to provide accurate information to citizens. Some Egyptian journalists, however, view the law as censorship, a restriction on freedom of the press and a prohibition against seeking information from other sources. The measure is part of a move towards harsher anti-terrorism laws announced [Bloomberg report] by Sisi after Egypt’s chief prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, was killed [JURIST report] in June.
The prosecution and subsequent imprisonment of journalists by the Egyptian government has garnered widespread criticism from international governments and rights groups. In February, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] welcomed [JURIST report] the decision by Egyptian authorities to release on bail two Al Jazeera journalists awaiting retrial on terror charges. The men were arrested [JURIST report] in December 2013 along with fellow Al Jazeera journalist and Australian national Peter Greste. In March Greste was released [JURIST report] from the Cairo detention facility and deported, under a law allowing the deportation of foreign nationals to their home countries. Fahmy is currently facing retrial and suing [JURIST report] Al Jazeera, alleging that the news organization was in fact a sponsor of the Muslim Brotherhood, and this connection negligently led to Fahmy being detained.